In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” It is not easy to let our guard down and be vulnerable because who we are and what people expect us to be can be very different. It’s a balance between being forthright and sensitive. This means that what we say, mean, and do are all in alignment. When this happens we are being authentic and are worthy of trust. We will also have a peaceful heart.
If I am honest, I will have to admit that some days I’m better at being authentic than others. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that for most of us, there is a daily struggle between who we think we should be and who we are, with all our crazy imperfections. Inside all of us are magnificent possibilities, but frequently those possibilities are challenged by our culture, and it likes to dictate an ideal image concerning how we look, eat, play, dress, work, travel, and house ourselves. To fit in we must be people pleasers, and if we fail to do that, we are simply not good enough.
Brene Brown has spent a lot of time researching this subject, and here is what she says choosing authenticity really means:
- Cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable
- Exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle
- Nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are enough
Daring to be authentic takes a great deal of courage. It means stepping out of our comfort zone, being willing to be misunderstood, and risking criticism. That’s asking a lot! We don’t want our authenticity to be interpreted as selfishness, or even worse, the total self-absorption of narcissism. And the people around us may not be grateful for our authentic endeavors, especially if it means we aren’t taking care of everyone and everything the way we used to.
So why do we go to all this trouble? We do this because authenticity is the key to our own health and well-being. We embrace who we are because we all arrived on this planet bearing our own personal perspective and unique gifts to share. We share who we truly are because that encourages and enables others to reveal their true selves. Risking vulnerability produces the most meaningful relationships. Being honest with ourselves nourishes our soul and is a model for the children and adults in our life.
What do we do on days when we feel fragile and frightened? We treat ourselves with kindness, love, gentleness, and respect. We listen to our inner strength and our intuition (that still, small voice of our Higher Power), and lessen our anxiety by taking time for self-reflection and meditation. By reflecting on past experience, we clarify what we need to do now. When we continue to say what we mean, we resist being pressured to make promises we know we can’t keep. This promotes personal harmony and strengthens courage. We remind ourselves that life is short and precious, so it’s a waste of time to get trapped in other people’s expectations.
If we live from a genuine place, we’re better able to live in the present, which keeps us from reliving what we perceive to be past mistakes. We appreciate ourselves, flaws included, and don’t take ourselves too seriously. It helps if we can laugh at our foibles. We can only speak our truth if we do not allow the opinion of others to hold us hostage. Easier said than done, but so rewarding. C.G. Jung wrote, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
Until we can boldly acknowledge our own unique radiance to ourselves, we are not able to share it with others. Healthy relationships require transparency and trust, but we first need to be honest with ourselves. We all have messy flaws, we’re all a work in progress. If we can truly be genuine, which is the best we can be, others around us will dare to do the same.
Life can give us challenges we’re not sure we can handle – cancer is one of them. Living authentically means we ask for what we need, set self-protective boundaries, pursue answers to our questions, and practice patience for the process we’re in. Setbacks are acknowledged but do not keep us from moving forward. We stand firm in the truth that we know our bodies best and, although we listen to advice, the decision-making belongs to us. When we are in touch with our deepest inner self, we allow the full expression of ourselves to emerge. That is authenticity.
Daring to be authentic is a challenge, but one with big rewards. Being true to ourselves is the best gift we can give ourselves and the people we love. Let’s encourage each other to be truly ourselves.
Until Next Time – Sylvia